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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Why I'm returning my new iPad and buying a Kindle Fire

amazon's kindle fire tablet pc
Kindle Fire @ $199.00
By Rick Broida

My new iPad is going back to the store.

I paid $600 for the 32GB Wi-Fi model, and although I like it well enough, I don't think it's worth the money.

Before the Apple faithful take my head off, allow me to explain -- and to note that I'm keeping my original iPad. Also, I have such mad love for my iPhone 4S, I want to cook it breakfast every morning. You get my meaning; this isn't just wayward iPad-bashing.

When Apple announced the new tablet, I was underwhelmed but intrigued. I'd skipped the iPad 2, so I figured I "owed" myself this upgrade. Plus, it would be a business expense; I do write for a blog called iPad Atlas, after all.

Mostly, though, I got caught up in the hype. After reading gushing praise for the new iPad's Retina Display and blazing processor, I had to see what the fuss was about.

The fuss, it turns out, was more overblown than a Kardashian wedding. The screen? Yep, it's nice. Does it make my eyes leap from my skull and dance a marimba cha-cha? No. Neither does it cure cancer or introduce me to supermodels, despite what some drooling bloggers intimated.

The new iPad is admirably peppy, though I never found my original iPad to be slow. My kids enjoy messing with the built-in cameras, but that's a luxury I certainly don't need. Using an iPad to snap photos or video is like driving a monster truck to the grocery store: uncomfortable and impractical (to say nothing of showy). The only thing that I'll actually miss is big-screen FaceTime -- but for those moments I can always Skype on my laptop.

4G LTE? Again, nice, but I have no need for it. And that leaves...what? The new iPad is a little slimmer, a little faster, and little easier on the eyes than the original. Not enough, Apple. I want my $600 back.

As fate would have it, a Kindle Fire arrived shortly after the new iPad. (It's a loaner, due back to Amazon in about a week.) As you're no doubt aware, it's a hair less expensive: $199.

Yes, it has a smaller screen, less storage, no cameras, no 3G/4G, no Bluetooth, and so on. But you know what? I love the little guy, because it better suits my needs.

For one thing, it's way more comfortable for reading. I consume a lot of e-books, but I find the iPad too big and cumbersome -- especially for reading in bed. The Fire is small enough and light enough that I can lie on my side and grip it one-handed. (Shut up.)

I also like magazines, most notably Entertainment Weekly, Time, and Wired. The app versions of all three work nicely on the iPad, but I like the Kindle Fire (Android) versions even better. Maybe it's because I was expecting a shrunken, ill-fitting stab at accommodating the smaller screen, but the formatting is just beautiful. Reading these mags on the Fire is a pleasure.

Music, movies, TV shows, games, apps -- the Kindle Fire excels at all this stuff, just like the iPad. I'm streaming "This Is Spinal Tap" (courtesy of Amazon Prime, an uneven but compelling service) as I type this, and it looks exquisite. Granted, the paltry 8GB of storage limits how much media I can take with me, but I'm mostly an around-the-house user anyway. (That's why I get by just fine with Wi-Fi.)

I also like the Kindle's modern, media-centric, dare-I-say-sexy interface, which actually makes Apple's UI seem rather dated.

So here's the upshot: for one-third of what I paid for the new iPad, I can accomplish 95 percent of what I want to do with a tablet, and with a smaller form factor I find more appealing. Different strokes for different folks, of course, but for me this is a no-brainer: I'm returning the new iPad and jumping into the Kindle Fire.


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